AEK snapped a three-game losing streak and re-entered itself into the race for the elimination rounds with a 70-58 win over Gran Canaria on Tuesday in Athens, Greece. Jasmin Perkovic scored 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting and Nestoras Kommatos drilled five triples to lead AEK back from an early double-digit deficit. AEK improves to 2-4, while Gran Canaria dropped to 3-3 in Group A of the ULEB Cup. Kommatos finished with 16 and Brent Scott had 10 points and 11 rebounds. Kornel David led Gran Canaria with 10 points and 4 steals and Jim Moran, Sitapha Savane and Jackson Vroman added 9 each. Vroman also had 9 boards. Gran Canaria led 7-17 in the first quarter and held a 30-37 halftime advantage, but Kommatos, Perkovic and Nikos Vetoulas were key in a 31-10 second-half run that put AEK in control for good.
AEK got on the scoreboard first through a post move by Jasmin Perkovic, however Gran Canaria capitalized on back-to-back AEK turnovers and raced out to a 2-7 lead on a triple by Moran. The visitors dominated the paint, with Vroman making noise on the offensive glass, and a basket by Savane gave them a 5-11 lead after only 3 minutes. After Scott muscled his way inside, Gran Canaria responded with baskets by Savane and Vroman and soon a Jimmie Hunter fast-break score boosted the gap to 7-17. Kommatos knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to get AEK back within 15-17 at the end of the first quarter. But AEK failed to keep the momentum going thanks to Moran and Roberto Guerra’s inside and outside game, which saw Gran Canaria reel off 10 unanswered points. AEK coach Vangelis Alexandris called a timeout, which led to nice passing and an open triple by Prodromos Nikolaidis and seconds later Perkovic converted a three-point play to cut the margin to 23-32. The hosts weren't allowing any easy baskets and Gran Canaria began to struggle from downtown, while on the other end Kommatos's three got AEK within 5. However Vroman was too talented for the AEK frontcourt to contain and his 5 points kept the visitors in charge, 30-37, at halftime.
AEK stepped up its intensity at the start of the second half, with Sotiris Nikolaidis leading the charge and the frontcourt tandem of Scott and Perkovic contributing 8 points as the hosts tied the game at 39-39. Kommatos rifled in another three to put AEK ahead for the first time since the early seconds of the game. Gran Canaria point guard Marcus Norris had trouble creating for his teammates as the team went scoreless for 7 minutes until Savane scored. However Vetoulas nailed a triple and then Scott added a jumper to give the hosts a 51-45 margin after 30 minutes. The hosts carried their momentum early in the final period and another three-pointer from Vetoulas extended the lead to 58-49 and brought the few, yet passionate fans to their feet. Gran Canaria was still struggling offensively, while AEK kept the scoreboard rolling. A Christos Tapoutos free throw capped an astonishing 31-10 comeback, giving AEK a 61-49 advantage midway the quarter. David picked up the scoring slack for the visitors and managed to trim the gap to 8. Gran Canaria coach Salvador Maldonado went to a full-court press defense. However, having two point guards –Ioannis Gagaloudes and Vetoulas - on the court, AEK controlled the tempo and stayed in charge despite a rare triple by Norris that trimmed the lead to 67-58 with 1 minute to go. But AEK hit its free throws down the stretch en route to a coveted victory that boosted its confidence and keeps it in contention for a spot in the next round.
Tuesday, December 5, 2006
Danos Tsakalos, Athens